Writer, director and TerrorScribe.com contributor Shawn Ewert premiered his first feature, “Sacrament” at the Fears for Queers film festival back in June. Here is a long delayed sit down I had with him. My review of “Sacrament” will post on Monday. September 15.
To ask the obvious question, how did it feel being in the room with a group watching your film for the first time?
It was pretty amazing, and nerve-racking at the same time. I moved around the theatre through the entire film trying to hear audience reactions, and get a good idea for how the film looked on the big screen. I wanted to make sure I heard the laughs, the gasps, and saw the jumps where I wanted to. My heart was pounding a mile a minute until the credits rolled.
Was there a particular scene you hoped the audience would enjoy more than others?
I was really curious how the audience would react to the gore, but there is a scene at the end that I was not sure was going to have the impact I had hoped. It had a strong effect on me every time I watched it, but I really hoped it would have a similar pull on the audience. Thankfully, it did.
While on one level, you had the typical genre stereotypes, on another level you essentially created a film full of characters who were all outcasts in one way or another. Was this a conscious effort or happy coincidence?
I think, as a filmmaker, that you have to walk a fine line of giving the audience something to latch onto – something that is familiar – to keep them invested, but then I think we all want to go our own way. I think we all want to give them something different, and tell our own story. I tried to keep a certain amount of familiarity with some aspects of the horror I grew up watching and loving because I knew I would be pushing the audience out of their comfort zones with some other aspects of the film.
It looks like you shot in a lot of rural locations (when you weren’t shooting in east Dallas), where did you shoot? How did the locals respond?
We did a fair amount of shooting in Boyd, TX. The locals were absolutely wonderful, and a lot of them ended up being in the film. We were able to get the police department on board, and they actually let us use their station for one of our shooting days. If I ever needed a location like the one we had out there, I would definitely try to look up some of those contacts again. We had some really great people working on the location scouting for the film. We would definitely not have gotten such perfect locations if they had not worked so hard.
If you could take one shot or one scene from the film and enshrine in your personal hall of fame, which one would it be? Why?
There are a couple that I really enjoy, but there is one that hits me every time I see it. There is a pretty emotional scene toward the end that means a lot to me. We worked harder on that scene than any other. We definitely rehearsed that one more than any other scene. I think it really showed a pretty solid bit of acting from the people in the scene, and it is definitely one of the ones I am most proud of.
And now to address the elephant in the room, your main characters are a gay couple. I felt that you a good job of writing them neutrally. Did they prove to be a special challenge?
Not at all. Quite honestly, they were based a little bit on different people that I know, or have known…or have been. Those were actually the easiest characters for me to write.
Are you concerned with how John Q. Horror Fan my react to them?
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a concern, but I didn’t let that weigh too heavily on the way we shot the film. There were a few scenes that I was a bit more concerned about but even those, once I saw the actors rehearsing them, I knew we had it right.
Did you find any “diamonds in the rough” in Boyd?
Locations-wise, absolutely. We did bring in Sheril Rodgers, who appeared in my first film Jack’s Bad Day. Sheril helped us secure some great locations. We were fully cast by the time we landed the locations in Boyd, so the rest of the people that we had the pleasure of working with were mainly background actors.
So none of the background actors tried to stretch out their parts a little?
There really wasn’t much allowance for it, honestly. We had a few people in the church scene at the end where they gave us some great reactions, but a lot of that was driven by me from a directorial point of view as I watched the monitors.
Most of your actors were fairly new – some, this was their first project. But you also had some genre greats, namely Marilyn Burns and Ed Guinn. Did they take the kids under their wings?
It was amazing seeing them on set with the younger actors. They took everything in stride, and were incredibly gracious in signing autographs and giving advice and acting notes. We could not have asked for better.
Who are some of your film making influences? Who are some of the storytellers in any medium that influence you?
Hitchcock, Clive Barker and Adam Green are huge influences on me as a filmmaker. Clive Barker is a huge influence on nearly everything that I do in a creative sense. I have always been a fan of anyone that can tell a good story. The story is what is the most important to me, both when I write and when I see someone else’s work. I always want the details. That may be a detriment to my own work, in that I go too far explaining or showing things sometimes, but I love the detail behind things. I love to know what makes things work.